PoliticsWomen's Issues


Kentucky Senate passes bill, OKs right to collect unborn child support

The measure would allow a parent to seek child support up to a year after giving birth to cover pregnancy expenses.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield.
Posted at 7:35 PM, Mar 07, 2024

The Republican-led Kentucky Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to grant the right to collect child support for unborn children, advancing a bill that garnered bipartisan support.

The measure would allow a parent to seek child support up to a year after giving birth to retroactively cover pregnancy expenses. The legislation — Senate Bill 110 — won Senate passage on a 36-2 vote with little discussion to advance to the House. Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers.

Republican state Sen. Whitney Westerfield said afterward that the broad support reflects a recognition that pregnancy carries with it an obligation for the other parent to help cover the expenses incurred during those nine months. Westerfield is a staunch abortion opponent and sponsor of the bill.

"I believe that life begins at conception," Westerfield said while presenting the measure to his colleagues. "But even if you don't, there's no question that there are obligations and costs involved with having a child before that child is born."

The measure sets a strict time limit, allowing a parent to retroactively seek child support for pregnancy expenses up to a year after giving birth.

"So if there's not a child support order until the child's 8, this isn't going to apply," Westerfield said when the bill was reviewed recently in a Senate committee. "Even at a year and a day, this doesn't apply. It's only for orders that are in place within a year of the child's birth."

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Kentucky is among at least six states where lawmakers have proposed measures similar to a Georgia law that allows child support to be sought back to conception. Georgia also allows prospective parents to claim its income tax deduction for dependent children before birth; Utah enacted a pregnancy tax break last year; and variations of those measures are before lawmakers in at least a handful of other states.

The Kentucky bill underwent a major revision before winning Senate passage. The original version would have allowed a child support action at any time following conception, but the measure was amended to have such an action apply only retroactively after the birth within the time limit.

Despite the change, abortion-rights supporters will watch closely for any attempt by anti-abortion lawmakers to reshape the bill in a way that "sets the stage for personhood" for a fetus, said Tamarra Wieder, the Kentucky State director for Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates. The measure still needs to clear a House committee and the full House. Any House change would send the bill back to the Senate.

The debate comes amid the backdrop of a recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling that frozen embryos are legally protected children, which spotlighted the anti-abortion movement's long-standing goal of giving embryos and fetuses legal and constitutional protections on par with those of the people carrying them.